Although we are all familiar with the standard car classifications based on body style like convertible, hatchback, coupe, etc., it can get a little tricky when classifying cars by age. But even so, we can still shine some light on the topic.
Well, when it comes to vintage vs. antique vs. classic cars, at least according to the American Collectors Community, a vintage car is made between 1919 and 1930, an antique car is made between 1931 and 1975, and a classic car is any car over 20 years old.
A vintage car as a term isn’t generally recognized and is used interchangeably with the terms classic and antique. And while some people may argue otherwise, the truth is just that vintage car is not an official term.
Still, the American Collectors Community did include the term vintage in their historic car classification, separate from the terms classic and antique. And according to them, a vintage car is any car built between 1919 and 1930.
During this period, cars still had large spoked or wooden wheels with extremely skinny tires, often without any shields covering them. The Ford Model T, for example, is one of those cars. At that time, four-door cars still resembled horse buggies, although gorgeous convertibles were also highly popular, like the Duesenbergs and Packards, but only with the top 1% of that time.
An antique car is another term interchanged with the term classic by states, car clubs, and people in general. But again, according to the American Collectors Community, an antique car is a car built between 1931 and 1975.
That makes the antique class the most diverse as it includes almost years of pre-war cars, fifties extravagance, sixties muscle cars, and seventies muscle cars up until they were pegged by modern emissions control laws and technologies. Also, the pre-1975 cars don’t need to get smog inspections, so that’s another way of differentiating them from classic cars.
Also, in some states, a car is only considered a classic if it’s over 45 years old. That means that a car that’s antique, according to the American Collectors Community, is barely a classic in those states. All that means the terms antique and vintage, when differentiated, are only recognized by the American Collectors Community.
A classic car is a term recognized by all car clubs, states, and countries. But before we go into that, it’s worth mentioning that according to the American Collectors Community, a classic car is a car that is at least 20 years old or made before the year 2000. That’s a year range between 1976 and 2003.
However, depending on which state you ask or which country, a classic car has to be 15, 20, 25, 26, 30, 35, 40, or 45 years old. That means there is no difference when it comes to vintage vs. classic cars or antiques, for that matter. Furthermore, some states don’t even have an age limit, while others have additional requirements other than age, like historical significance, how close it is to the original spec, production numbers, etc.
To make the matter even more complicated, according to the Classic Car Club of America, a classic car is any car made between 1915 and 1948. That year span, according to the American Collectors Community, includes vintage and antique cars, but not classics.
Also, here are some examples of what different states consider a classic car. We made sure to include at least one age bracket, some with additional requirements, some with no age restrictions, and some with age equations. But in most states, it’s just 25 years old with no additional requirements.
- Pennsylvania – 15 and “Maintained or Restored to Manufacturer’s Specification”
- Montana – 10 and “Historically Significant”
- Colorado – 1975 or Older
- Michigan – 26
- Minnesota – No Age Restriction
- Oregon – “More than half the number of years old between 1900 and the current year.”
- Wyoming – 40
- Iowa – 20
- Arkansas – 45
- Idaho – 30
- Kansas – 35 and “Maintained or Restored to Manufacturer’s Specification”
- New Hampshire – 25
Vintage Vs. Antique Vs. Classic Difference
At the end, according to every virtual car club, state, or country; there is no difference between vintage vs. antique vs. classic cars until you ask the American Collectors Community or a random guy at a local bar or car meet.
But again, the American Collectors Community (ACC) states that all cars made between 1919 and 1930 are vintage, those made between 1931 and 1975 are antique, and those made between 1976 and 2000 are classic. Other than that, there is hardly any difference.
As a matter of fact, the terms vintage, classic, and antique can hardly be differentiated at all. So, if you don’t like the ACC’s classification, I’m afraid there are not that many other sources to differentiate the terms vintage, antique, and classic properly. Even the definitions from Oxford English Dictionary for the three terms are almost identical.
Q: How old are classic vintage and antique?
According to the American Collectors Community (ACC), classic is 20 years or older, vintage is 48 to 93 years old, and antique is 94 to 104 years old. But outside ACC, the terms are interchangeable and apply to all cars older than 15 to 45 years, depending on the source.
Q: What is considered classic or antique?
Any car older than 15 to 45 years, depending on which state you ask, is classic or antique. Additionally, some states may require that the car is in its original condition or restored to the original spec, that it has historical significance, or that it’s used primarily for educational purposes or shows.
Q: What is older than vintage?
According to the ACC, nothing is older than vintage. However, according to sources outside the automotive world, vintage replaces the term classic, and antique is older than vintage. According to retrokids.com, an antique item has to be older than 100 years; otherwise, it’s vintage.
Q: What is retro vs. vintage?
A vintage car is a car that’s more than 45 years old, depending on who you ask, in its original condition or restored to the original spec with historical significance. Retro is a term used to describe a new item designed to resemble a vintage one; one example of that would be the Porsche 911, and another one is the Alpine A110.
Q: Does classic mean old?
Yes, classic means old, but not necessarily too old. Depending on the source, a classic car can be only 16 years old. However, in a different context, the term classic can describe something new that pays homage to something old by implementing certain design cues of the original item.
Q: What is the opposite of vintage?
If vintage, in broad terms, means old, then the opposite of vintage would be modern. Some other synonyms include state-of-the-art, avant-garde, new, advanced, innovative, futuristic, ahead-of-time, ultra-modern, and experimental.
Ultimately, the only clear definition of classic, vintage, and antique cars is offered by the American Collectors Community, whereby classic cars are older than 20 years, antique cars are pre-1975, and vintage cars are made between 1919 and 1930.
Otherwise, the terms vintage, classic, and antique are interchangeable and are used to describe or label cars that are at least 15 to 45 years old, depending on which car club you ask, which country, and which state.